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Monday, June 8, 2015: Niskayuna's Whitley drafted 13th overall by Rays

   Leading off today: The Tampa Bay Rays selected Niskayuna outfielder Garrett Whitley with the No. 13 overall pick in the MLB Draft on Monday night in Secaucus, N.J.

   Baseball Prospectus rated Whitley as the draft's seventh-best prospect, MLB.com ranked him 17th and Baseball America projected him as the No. 27 pick. For a time this spring, it was thought the Arizona Diamondbacks might take the 6-foot-1 senior as the top overall pick.

   Whitley had previously committed to Wake Forest, but a potential signing bonus in excess of $2.9 million for the No. 13 slot likely changes the dynamics, particularly since MLB teams are hesitant to use high picks on prospects they are not confident they can sign. With a dearth of outfield talent in its minor-league system, the Rays are unlikely to force protracted negotiations.

   "Euphoria," Whitley said on MLB Network after he was picked. "Nothing is definite until it happens. I'm shaking."

   Whitley batted .356 with three home runs and 13 runs batted in this spring. He was 15-for-15 in stolen base attempts and was selected Gatorade's New York player of the year.

   No New York high school senior has been taken with such a lofty pick since the Cleveland Indians drafted Manny Ramirez out of George Washington High in New York City with the 13th pick in 1991. Another NYC star, Thomas Jefferson's Shawon Dunston, was taken first overall by the Chicago Cubs in 1982, making him the only New York senior to earn that distinction.

   Dee Brown (Marlboro, Kansas City Royals, 14th in 1996) was the last New York senior taken in the top 25 picks.

   Messere to be honored: West Genesee's next home boys lacrosse game on its turf surface will be played on Mike Messere Field.

   The school board has named the field for Messere, whose 40th season as varsity coach ended Saturday with a loss in the NYSPHSAA Class A championship game.

   West Genesee superintendent Chris Brown said Messere will be officially honored during the annual John Pepper Lacrosse Tournament in Camillus on Aug. 1 or 2, Syracuse.com reported.

   West Genesee has won 30 Section 3 and 15 state championships under Messere, whose 803 victories is a U.S. scholastic record. Messere was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1994 and the National High School Hall of Fame two years ago.

   Awards time: Niagara Falls shortstop Toni Polk has been selected Gatorade's New York player on the year in softball. The 5-foot-5 senior shortstop batted .532 this season and she is rated as the nation's No. 28 senior by Full Count Softball.

   Gatorade began recognizing softball players of the year in 1998. Williamsville South pitcher Chelsea Plimpton (2007) was the only previous Section 6 recipient of the award.

   Just in case: Their strategy ended up going for naught, but credit the Corning staff for some very wise planning this season.

   Foot pain started cutting into sophomore distance running standout Jessica Lawson's training during the indoor season, and the situation really didn't show much improvement throughout most of the spring despite resorting to going to the pool for her cardio workouts and other measures to reduce stress on the foot.

   She was ultimately diagnosed with Freiberg's infraction -- a fancy version of repetitive stress -- The Press & Sun-Bulletin reported, and it all but ended her hopes of competing on the track this season. She started jogging some laps with teammates recently, but ultimately it was decided that she was not going to be ready at to run at her usual high performance standards.

  

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  •    Somewhere between the diagnosis and the decision to keep her from competitive running, however, the Corning coaches took out an insurance policy of sorts just in case the foot improved in time for Lawson to race again. In order to get enough meets under her belt, Lawson willingly became one of the worst varsity shot-putters in recent memory.

       See, the rules say an athlete has to compete in a minimum number of meets; nothing in the book says that a runner has to run, a jumper has to jump or a thrower has to throw. When they're taking attendance at meets, a PR of 13 feet, 8 inches in the shot put counts every bit as much as running the 3,000 meters in 9:12.5.

       Lawson got strange looks from people who know her prowess on the track -- "'What is that distance girl doing over here?'" she recounted to the paper. "But the throwers on my team were very supportive, they cheered every time I got a PR."

       North Jersey? South Brooklyn? Rutgers already has three commitments from Class of 2016 football players from New York State, and all are from Brooklyn:

    • LB Elias Reynolds, Poly Prep
    • WR Taysir Mack, Grand Street Campus
    • WR Ahmed Bah, Grand Street Campus
       There's a lot of time left in the process -- letter of intent day is eight months away -- but that puts the Scarlet Knights well on their way to out-recruiting Syracuse University in the state once again. Rutgers signed seven New Yorkers in the past three years -- four made the two deep in spring practice -- to just five for the Orange.

       Extra points: In 2012-13, Bishop Kearney's 6-foot-10 Chinoso Obokoh, 6-9 Thomas Bryant and 6-10 Godspower Ogide formed the tallest frontcourt in Section 5 basketball history. Obokoh signed with Syracuse, Bryant is headed to Indiana this fall by way of Huntington Prep and now we know what's in store for Ogide, who was at Bull City Prep Academy in Durham, N.C., this year. He tweeted recently he has committed to Delaware State.

       The NYSPHSAA boys hockey Division II tournament added a wildcard team this year to give the bracket eight teams and help avoid situations like in 2014, when Queensbury (5-15-1) received the rotating bye into the semifinals. The first year of the wildcard worked out extremely well when Section 3 runner-up Skaneateles justified its presence by winning the tournament. According to the hockey committee, Section 5 will get the extra berth next winter and the possibility of advancing two Division II teams to the semifinals at the HarborCenter in Buffalo.


      
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